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The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

Cat Myths and Fallacies

There are tons of fallacies and myths that surround cats. Here are some of the ones I encounter most frequently. See if you can guess which statements are true and which are false.

  1. All cats love catnip.

    This is false. The ability to be able to enjoy catnip is actually genetic. For those cats that are sensitive to effects of catnip, reactions can differ. For some, the herb acts almost like a drug, making them lose all inhibitions. As a child, my family shared our home with a cat that acted in a drunken fashion when exposed to catnip. He would actually stagger on his feet and seem to see things that weren’t there. For other cats, the reaction is more tempered. One of the cats that I currently live with loves to roll in the herb when I place it, in its dried form, on the floor. She’ll roll around in the catnip for 10-15 minutes and then she’s done.

  2. Some cats like water.

    This one is true. While many cats do dislike water, some cats actually even enjoy swimming. I have one cat that enjoys playing in water. He will climb in the middle of the water bowl and splash the water. He will also climb on the toilet stool, place his front legs in the water, and splash the water out of the bowl and onto the bathroom floor. He enjoys playing in the flowing water in our water fountain also.

  3. Cats and dogs can live together peacefully.

    In most cases, this also is true. Cats and dogs can become very close friends. While I don’t currently share my home with a dog, I have kept dogs and cats together in the past. I’ve even lived with a dog and cat that slept curled up together on a regular basis.

  4. Cats cannot be trained.

    False! Cats can be trained and can even learn to do tricks, if desired. There are plenty of cat owners who have clicker trained their cats. Training your cat to do simple tricks can actually be a fun way of interacting with your cat and a great method of bonding.

  5. Cats exhibit certain behaviors out of spite.

    This is also false. Unfortunately, it is a myth that persists. Cats do not pee or poop outside of the litter box, scratch your furniture, or engage in other behaviors because they are upset with you. The key is being able to understand and accept normal cat behavior. What to you may seem an undesirable behavior (for instance, clawing your couch) is, to your cat, a perfectly normal behavior. In this case, your cat is marking his territory, sharpening his claws, and perhaps also stretching his muscles. Your cat is not being spiteful. He’s simply being a cat. Whatever the behavior, there is a reason for it that has nothing to do with spite.

  6. Cats are independent, anti-social creatures.

    If you live with a cat, you probably already realize that this is false. Cats can actually be very social creatures and often seek out companionship and attention. All six of my cats solicit attention from me on a regular basis. At times, they pretty much demand the interaction, head butting and pawing at me if I’m not paying attention. This is one of the things I enjoy most about living with cats.

  7. Cats need regular veterinary care.

    I hope that all of you know that this is true. At a minimum, your cat needs to visit the veterinarian at least once a year for an examination. Many veterinarians recommend twice yearly visits, particularly for mature and senior cats. Cats with health issues may require even more frequent veterinary care. Though veterinary visits may seem expensive, regular preventive care will actually save you money in the long term. It is less costly to prevent disease than treat it. Where disease cannot be prevented, catching the illness early will provide a better chance of successful treatment at a lower cost than treating a severely ill cat. Even more important than the financial aspect, preventive health care can prolong your cat’s life and will ensure a higher quality of life for your cat.

How did you do? Did you guess them all correctly? Were you surprised at any of them? What other fallacies or myths about cats can you think of?

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: Nick Barounis / via Shutterstock

Comments  10

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  • Cat Myths
    06/24/2013 07:40am

    the big one that we still hear in this part of the country (rural southern U.S.) is that cats such the breath from babies.

  • 06/24/2013 08:05am

    I rescued a female cat a month ago from our local shelter. I was told she was 4 yrs old. Her documents state she was found a stray. I rescued her 10 days after she was found. You say cats are not anti-social. I think this one is. She does not like being held, or petted except for a brief period of time. She will not cuddle with me on the sofa, nor will she sleep on the bed with me. I have a number of toys and she at times will play but short periods of time. She sits at the glass door for hours. The only consistent inter-action I have with her is when she thinks its time to eat. I can't leave a day's supply of food at one time as she will eat it all at one sitting and beg for more when I go into the kitchen. When I rescued her I was told she was pregnant at time of being spayed. Could this be the culprit of her actions? Any suggestions to gain her affection/my being able to share affection with her?

  • 06/24/2013 02:43pm

    One cat we took in hated women. If I tried to pick him up there would be a paw headed for my eyes with nails fully out. It took a move away from his former owner who had abandonned him, (he adopted us), for him to turn around to such an extent that I couldn't get him to stay off my lap for the last few years we had him. Sometimes, depending upon previous experiences, adjustments can take years of patience with cats.

    We were told a recent addition was "high maintenance" partly because she had learned that negative behavior got her what she wanted. It has taken her good year or so to settle in with new cats we have added to the home. She still hisses the odd time when passing the retired breeder.

    It definitely requires patience with some cats. How they are introduced makes a major difference as we have learned over time. We even went to the troube of building a special door to use on one room with new introductions. You may need to try something like that for a while?

    As long as your cat doesn't have a life threatening communicable disease, you should be able to eventually sort things better than we could with our FIV+ fellow who, we think, suffered neuron damage after contracting FIV: http://legolasourfivboy.blogspot.ca/ At the bottom of the page, there is a picture of two cats who clearly loved each other's company, as long as the door was separating them. Very sad for the FIV+ cat who could only have physical contact with the dog we took in. He wasn't a normal case of FIV, by the way.

  • 06/24/2013 07:39pm

    definitely give it more time. It took my cat 3-4 months to become more affectionate. Just in give it more time and she will be waking you up at 5am in no time!

  • 06/28/2013 11:18am

    Give her time. If she was a stray she was probably used to hunting for food (hence, eating all she can when she gets it) and spending all of her time outside. As long as you stay patient and loving she'll get there. Try treat time too.

    We rescued one that was dropped at the shelter after being with the same family for 6 years and after two months she's just now coming to us for attention. She gets two treats in the evening and I've got her sitting for one and sitting pretty for the second already.

    Love them and they will love you in return - it just might take them a little longer.

  • 08/06/2013 11:07pm

    Hello Senior Citizen,
    to answer your question, yes there is a way to help your cat feel more at ease and sociable. It appears your cat was a stray or feral. It takes TIME for them to adjust to a new home. This could be weeks, or month, even years. It's happened to me.

    The KEY IS CONSISTENCY in whatever you do. Cats love routine and this is sure way to gain their trust and affection sooner than later. It is also normal for them to inhale their food which means most likely they were born a stray and went hungry for food and they don't forget.

    Talk to them in a sweet soothing voice calling their name. Feed at same time everyday. Also, find out their favorite food. You can try to pet your cat but don't force it. I have gained the trust of outdoor feral cats but it took years for them to get closer. once I place the bowls next to me so their body was alongside mine and not facing me so it was easy to start scratching their head while eating. They jumped at first but once I gained their trust in feeding them close to me, petting them became easier.

    When my indoor kitty is napping, approach super softly and quietly and start to pet them at THEIR LEVEL. They may get startled but at least they are relaxed. This is how I gained the trust of my scaredy cat. Also if they stare at you, blink your eyes very slowly. This is a sign that you are relaxed and not about to pounce. Now you're talking their language--cat body language!

    Good luck!

  • Cat Myths- anti-social
    06/24/2013 08:23am

    kittens need to be 'socialized' at appropriate ages, just like 'puppies' -- if they do not receive the appropriate human intervention at very young ages, they may never be 'all they could be' and never really have the trust necessary to 'bond' to human beings. Hopefully she will learn to accept and trust you, but it will take time. Be patient, don't force her, let her get used to you on her own. If you can find really really wonderful treats that she responds to -- boiled chicken breast, tiny pieces of cheese, little niblets of cantelope - you may want to offer those when you're sitting quietly on the sofa, just put a small piece in the palm of your hand and let her make the decision to come for it. Patience is the name of the game here.
    Good Luck.

  • 06/24/2013 09:00am

    Thank you so much for your advice. I do offer her food that I eat (organic/non gluten) and put a small bit on a plate for her beside her bowl. She does love chicken, fish, sweet potatoes, some vegetables. I'll cut up some cheese and cantelope into small bits and keep handy.

    Thanks again!

  • Number of cats
    06/24/2013 02:47pm

    We find the ideal number of cats to have is three. There is always good social interaction going on for each cat that way. At the moment we have Muffin, who chases Josie, who chases Grandma, who chases Muffin. Can be quite noisy after we retire for the night.

  • Patience
    06/24/2013 06:09pm

    Sometimes it takes years of patience for a cat to decide that humans are OK.

    I adopted Louise, who was terrified of everything - especially people. I worked with her at least once an hour during the hours I was home and it still took a year to be able to touch her without fearing the loss of a hand.

    Taking her for a checkup for a challenge for everyone involved.

    In her golden years (7 or 8 years later), she became a lap cat, but trusted only me. If a stranger was within sight or sound, Louise vanished under the bed.

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